The European Commission undertook a review of the agriculture de minimis regulations during 2017 and 2018. As a result of that review, the Commission recently published the revised rules on de minimis aid in the agriculture sector. Under the revised rules, aid of up to €20,000 can be paid to a beneficiary on a rolling three year basis i.e. the current fiscal year and the two previous fiscal years. Once a beneficiary has reached this limit they may not receive any further aid in excess of this limit under de minimis rules within the rolling time period.
In order to avoid any potential distortion of competition, each EU Member State has a maximum national limit, which they cannot exceed. Under the revised rules, Member States' national ceiling is increased to 1.25% of their annual agricultural output over the same three-year period. This represents a 25% increase in the national ceiling.
The revised rules permit a Member State to increase the individual de minimis aid limit up to €25,000, once the Member State does not spend more than 50% of its total national aid envelope on one particular agricultural sector. In these circumstances, the national limit is increased to 1.5% of the annual output. This represents a 66% increase in the ceiling per farmer and a 50% increase in the national ceiling.
The revised rules on de minimis aid in the agriculture sector – Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/316 – were published in the Official Journal on 22 February 2019. This Regulation entered into force on the 20th day following its publication in the Official Journal i.e. 14 March 2019.
As regards the BEEP Scheme, I launched this scheme on 30 January 2019. Applications for this scheme were accepted by my Department from 4 – 22 February 2019 (inclusive), which is before the revised rules on de minimis aid in the agriculture sector came into effect. Therefore, applications under the BEEP Scheme are considered on the basis of the threshold limits set out in Commission Regulation (EU) No 1408/2013 i.e €15,000 to a single undertaking over the period of three fiscal years.
However, this does not mean that farmers who have reached their €15,000 threshold limit since 2017 are precluded from applying under future agriculture de minimis schemes. In the event that new de minimis schemes are introduced after 14 March 2019, applications for these schemes will be considered on the basis of the new increased threshold limits as set out in Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/316.